what i do on my snow days - a response to gene marks

This morning I was going about my normal Sunday morning routine: drinking coffee, watching Saved by the Bell reruns (yep, you read that right, MeTV Boston every Sunday) and scrolling Facebook when I came across this article about teachers and snow days.  I am sure I reacted like every other teacher in America - I could barely get through the article without seeing red.  Seriously, I saw smoke coming out of my ears.  It wasn't just the words, but the pompous, patronizing tone that made me so angry.  But then I realized that Gene Marks, just like many other Americans who go on these angry tirades, is just jealous.

Take, for example, the article's beginning.

I am pretty confident that the general impression of the public is NOT that teachers are taking time off work to campaign and organize and protest and complain as Gene Marks implies here.  The fact that teachers are lucky enough to have an organized union to fight for our interests might be a rarity, but it is not unlike any other special interest group campaigning for their own interests.  The difference is that most corporate employees don't have this benefit, and Gene Marks has decided to apply the standard 6 year-old's but-Moooooom-why-does-he-get-it-and-I-don't whine to this widely known teacher perk.

Let's move on.

The first half of this paragraph is a journalist gem.  ALL of the snow was cleared away by 10am?  From everywhere?  Parking lots and sidewalks in addition to the roads?  I am interested to know what kind of research went into this.  I know up here in Boston we have had so much snow that roofs are caving in.  Are you suggesting we go to work in these buildings before the snow has been cleared off?  I also know that teachers are encouraged to stay home so that custodians and town workers can efficiently clear the parking lots without having to maneuver around cars.  In some cases, that takes until 9pm on said snow day.

So what did I do on my snow days?  Did I celebrate?  Absolutely not.  Snow days are like sick days for teachers.  They just create more work and anxiety.  Yes, I slept in.  Perk of the job.  Nope, didn't read a book or watch The Wendy Williams Show.  But I did watch Let's Make a Deal!  Then I watched The Price is Right.  I sat on the couch, right next to my husband (who is not a teacher but was also working from home), both in our sweats, drinking coffee, watching two of the greatest morning television gameshows of all time.  It was glorious.

And guess what?  I get to do this during my spring break, Christmas break, and during the summers too.  But you forgot February break.  Gasp!

This paragraph did not make me angry.  It made me laugh.  Seriously?  Of all the things that you could suggest to be the "root of the problem" you picked snow days?   This doesn't even take into account many states in the country that don't ever see snow.  I grew up in a suburb of Houston, Texas, and one day we had a flurry.  The entire school went out for an extra recess to celebrate.  Many of the kids and teachers had never seen snow before.  And what about in California or Florida or Arizona or any other southern state?  Are you suggesting that the public views teachers differently there?  No.  This is not the root of the problem.  You are right that we are smart and excellent with kids and we deal with lots of problems.  That's why we are teachers.  Why am I not working harder?  For the same reason you are not.  There is always a "harder," always a "better."  But I work as hard as I can, and I'm assuming you do too.

"What's the point of going to school when none of the kids will be there?" said no teacher ever.  Gene Marks, have you ever even spoken to a teacher before?  No, seriously.  At the previous school where I worked, the district installed a swipe card system because teachers insisted on access to the school when kids were not there.

Which brings me to your other question.  Why aren't I coming to work like the rest of you?   Let's answer this by addressing your next point in the article: the amazingly brilliant suggestions of what I could be doing on my "days off."

I did this...at home...right after The Price is Right.

I also did this...at home.  You see, there is this amazing new invention called a "weather forecast."  It tells you the weather ahead of time so that teachers can prepare for snow days and bring their work home.

This is merely the same as your first bullet.  You just wrote it differently so it looked like you had a new point.

This clearly shows just how much you do not understand a teacher's job.  The fact that my classroom is already clean because my students and I did it together the previous afternoon is beside the point.  Cleaning my classroom does not make for a better learning environment just like cleaning your child's room would not make you a better parent.  A good environment for learning is one that values risk-taking, trust, high expectations, and mutual respect.

This is the most ridiculous point of all.  It actually disappoints me to see an adult suggesting this kind of hypocrisy.  Gene Marks, when have you ever come into your work on your day off to maintain, clean, or repair your building, let alone during a blizzard and without payment?  I honestly don't know anyone who ever has (please comment below if you have, you deserve a medal!).  Like most of the corporate world, our district has hired custodians to do this.  And I'm pretty sure they do not want me attempting to repair anything on my own.  Believe me.  I know.  I've been told on more than one occasion.  Trash removal?  Already done, by said custodians.  Library reorganization?  Do you know what my principal would say to me if I decided to do this?  I'd probably be fired!  And why would the library need reorganizing?  I'm pretty confident my librarian, who is an expert in her field, knows what she is doing thankyouverymuch.  If it needed reorganizing, she already did it in the summer.  Maybe not during a blizzard, but definitely without pay.  Hanging artwork?  Again, we have an expert who already does this regularly.  Computer upgrades?  Come on, now you're just being ridiculous.   

The rest of these are all the same, just different suggestions for coming into work without pay.  There is really no point in arguing about all of the extra hours teachers put in beyond the school day.  We all already know that both teachers and non-teachers work more than 40 hours per week to complete what needs to be done because there are never enough hours in the day.  But suggesting that teachers go into work on their days off is like suggesting that the local grocery cashier come in on his day off and work without pay.  It's just not going to happen, hence the overwhelming success of Office Space.   Companies know that if they want their employees to work extra days, they need to compensate them for it.  The same applies for teachers.  

My favorite of these points is the one about back-up coaches and trainers.  It reminds me of presidential campaigns where each candidate tries to win over the public with outlandish reform policies that are not research-backed and have no way of becoming a reality.

Gene Marks, you say that snow days are "a symbolic example of our perception of teachers."  Yes, that is true.  You are looking at all the perks of our job - snow days, vacations, summers off - and letting your jealousy for these perks define your perception.  All jobs have perks: higher salaries, great benefits, paid summer outings, unlimited sick days.  I once worked a temp job in the summer where the company paid for an icecream truck to deliver frozen treats every Monday afternoon.  At another summer job, I was tasked to arrange for the employees to spend the week in Kiawah Island, SC complete with complimentary spa treatments and golf outings.  But you don't see me writing articles suggesting that they need to work harder.  In fact, most of the employees not only worked as hard as they could, but they were quite happy with their jobs.  Research shows that companies who take care of their employees historically have lower turnover rates.  

So you can envy me for my perks.  But don't hate.  It's unbecoming.

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